Open Gov Manifesto

Open government is the simple but powerful idea that governments and institutions work better for citizens when they are transparent, engaging and accountable.

The Open Government Partnership is an international initiative, bringing together over 65 countries, which aims to create a ‘race to the top’ in open government.

Participating countries produce National Action Plans every two years outlining their commitments to reform. The UK was a founder member in 2011 and will publish its third National Action Plan in January 2016.

OGP National Action Plans must be informed by civil society. This Manifesto, based on a ten month project to source the best open government ideas from citizens and civil society across the UK, puts forward key proposals for the new plan.

Members of the Open Government Network call for government in the UK to:

Read summaries of the proposed commitments below.

The full detail of the proposed commitments can be found here.


agreement2Corruption distorts public decision making in the interests of a few, harming the fabric of society, and destroying trust between citizens and institutions. Openness is critical to uncovering and tackling corruption, in government, companies and civil society. The following commitments would help tackle corruption in the UK and abroad.

1. Implement & update the anti-corruption plan

Commit to implementing the current Anti-Corruption Plan, and updating and developing the Anti-Corruption Action Plan.

Current situation:

Corruption is one of the biggest global issues of our time. The Anti-Corruption Plan sets out how the Government will fight corruption in the public and private sectors in the UK and overseas, and how it will ensure the coordination needed between departments in order to effectively tackle the problem.

We call for:

  • HMG to commit to implementing the current Anti-Corruption Plan.
  • HMG to commit to updating and developing the Anti-Corruption Action Plan.

2. Strengthen natural resource transparency

Require UK-listed extractive companies to provide open data; work for EU-wide extractives commodity and other payments disclosure; extend disclosure to AIM; and influence the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to require disclosure.

Current situation:

UK leadership has contributed to significant progress in making the world’s extractive (oil, gas and mining) industries more financially transparent and accountable, but reporting gaps and weaknesses remain in the UK, EU and international disclosure regimes.

We call for:

  • HMG to require more companies active in oil, gas and minerals extraction and trading to publicly disclose in open data format a wider spectrum of payments to governments on a country and project-level basis in more home jurisdictions and capital markets.

3. Extend beneficial ownership disclosure

Ensure that all companies that own property or participate in delivering government obligations to provide public, goods, services and infrastructure will disclose who controls and benefits from their business decisions as open data.

Current situation:

Corruption and criminal activity thrives under conditions of secrecy. Investments in the UK can hide the proceeds of illegal activity such as money laundering, bribery and embezzlement.

We call for:

  • HMG to extend requirements to disclose beneficial ownership as open data for all companies that participate in the delivery of public goods, services and infrastructure in the UK or overseas.
  • HMG to extend requirements to disclose beneficial ownership as open data for companies that bid for UK public contracts, including any sub-contractors or suppliers relevant to the contract.
  • HMG to publish the ultimate beneficial ownership information of UK properties owned by overseas companies, on the same basis as Companies House is set to do for UK companies under current legislation.

4. Increase lobbying transparency

Reform the statutory register of lobbyists so that it provides meaningful information about the scale and nature of lobbying in the UK.

Current situation:

Despite recent reforms, there is still very little transparency about the scale and nature of lobbying activities in the UK and little disincentive to prevent corrupting behaviour by lobbyists.

We call for:

  • HMG to expand the scope and requirements of the statutory register of lobbyists to provide greater transparency about who is trying to influence public policy and decisions within the current Parliament.
  • The new register to include: in-house as well as consultant lobbyists, lobbyists who are trying to influence Government Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Special Advisers, mid-level Civil Servants and UK Parliamentarians, details of their registered address and company recognition number (if applicable) and quarterly updates detailing their activities during that period.

Citizen Participation

chat61Citizen participation is a critical element of open government, which unpins many of the other aspects of openness by providing the vital link between transparency and accountability. In an increasingly complex world, citizens’ input is a critical resource for policy-making, with good decision-making requiring the knowledge, experiences, views and values of the public. The following commitments would help make citizen participation in government policy making more effective and meaningful.

5. Improve consultation practice

Develop process and tools for more effective consultation practices.

Current situation:

The principle that those affected by decisions should be given the opportunity to shape those decisions is central to open government. Outside periodically voting for elected representatives, citizens must be offered opportunities to provide their input into key policy decisions that affect them.

We call for:

  • HMG and civil society to co-produce a manual and toolkit to improve consultation processes using both online and offline means. This should include guidance on how findings of consultation should be processed to Ministers for consideration.
  • HMG and civil society to co-produce guidance for how policy-makers (defined as those with elected responsibility) should effect a response to consultation and the parameters of what that response should look like
  • HMG to explore existing mandates for Ministerial Responsibility that could be strengthened to incorporate a requirement for response to consultation
  • HMG to publish quarterly statistics on consultations undertaken by central government (including details of their opening dates, duration, number of responses and some details about demographics of respondents)
  • HMG to provide the National Audit Office with the remit to monitor public sector consultation and ensure compliance
  • HMG to set up an Ombudsman with oversight for public consultation

6. Open policy making pilot projects

Explore and practice open policy-making and share learning

Current situation:

Policy makers need to develop and trial a range of different approaches to open policy making and citizen engagement to understand what works best and when. As citizen engagement is a continuously developing field, with new evidence of benefits and limitations of different techniques in different settings emerging on an ongoing basis, continued exploration needs to take place to understand the tools and opportunities available for national and local governments to hear from a wider range of citizens.

We call for:

  • HMG and civil society to co-design 10 different open policy making projects based across a number of government departments focussing on different stages of policy development. At least one of these should focus on children’s participation.
  • HMG to publish an evaluative report, including statistics on the number of individuals engaged, the mechanisms by which they were engaged and how feedback was provided to those who engaged.
  • HMG to disseminate learning from the pilots, including through 4 events with devolved regions and local government.

Open Budgets

calculator69How a government collects and spends money is fundamental to the impact it has on society. To ensure that government is serving them effectively, citizens must be able to scrutinise and influence budget processes. The following commitments would open up budgets to citizens, and help ensure the fair and effective use of public money.

7. Lead on transparency, public participation and accountability in the budget process

Increase transparency, public participation and accountability in the budget process at all levels domestically and internationally.

Current situation:

A lack of transparency and public participation in the budget process at all levels means the system is not as accountable as it could be and public funds in the UK and abroad are not used as effectively as they could be.

We call for:

  • HMG to champion fiscal and budget transparency, participation and accountability in domestic and international fora
  • A Citizens Jury to be established to design a process that empowers the public to spend a percentage (0.25-1%) of public funds
  • A ‘test and learn’ approach to be taken to designing greater participation in the influencing stages of budget setting and spending.

8. Increase the transparency and accountability of tax incentives/reliefs

Ensure all UK tax incentives/reliefs are annually costed and subject to periodic review to ensure they serve their purpose and provide value for money.

Current situation:

Currently the UK undertakes a cost benefit analysis of tax incentives and reliefs prior to adoption, but does not systematically undertake continuous monitoring once passed into law. This is a problem as there is general agreement among economists that tax incentives have the potential to be harmful, and as such should be treated with caution and subject to close monitoring, yet this is not happening. 

We call for:

  • An independent body (e.g. NAO or OBR) to be mandated to develop a methodology for costing and assessing tax incentives, with first comprehensive report costing all UK tax reliefs produced by end of plan
  • HMG to develop a schedule for rolling assessment of all UK tax reliefs, with first assessments to be conducted and submitted to parliament for debate by end of this National Action Plan cycle

Open Contracting

sign20Contracting has become a significant tool for government in delivering services to citizens. To ensure the effective use of public resources and good public services for citizens, it is essential that transparency, participation and accountability follow public money into any organisation delivering public contracts. The following commitments would ensure that outsourced services are delivered efficiently and effectively, and that public money is well spent.

9. Fully adopt the Open Contracting Principles and data standards

Fully implement the Open Contracting Partnership’s Global Principles and Data Standard across government.

Current situation:

Contracting is an increasingly important means of delivering public services. A lack of openness in contracting means there is a lack of accountability for public funds, and missed opportunities for greater citizen control over those services. A lack of oversight of contracting information also means government doesn’t understand its supply chain as well as it could, missing the opportunity to make procurement and use of public resources more efficient, and to reduce government exposure to supply chain risks.

We call for:

  • HMG to commit to apply the open contracting partnership’s global principles to all organisations contracted to deliver public goods, services and infrastructure, including overseas development assistance.
  • Contracts Finder to fully implement the Open Contracting Data Standard for all stages of the contracting process
  • Contracts Finder to be updated to record the full details of contracts (in addition to awards), contract amendments, and the final termination of contracts.

10. Introduce a public contracting disclosure baseline

Ensure a common set of information is disclosed by contractors supplying government.

Current situation:

It is difficult to track the delivery of contracted out public services: for example, to identify who work was ultimately subcontracted to, or who the beneficial owners of companies funds flow to are.

We call for:

  • HMG to agree a baseline information set & data standard which lead the way in the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
  • HMG to apply the baseline information set & data standard to all public sector contracts, requesting key information from contractors as part of their reporting.
  • HMG to develop tools (contract clauses, or schedule to the standard transparency clause) to implement the baseline and update Contracts Finder to collect the relevant data.

11. Promote public participation in contracting

Increase the opportunities for citizens to be involved in planning, tender and oversight processes

Current situation:

There are few structured opportunities in the UK for citizens to participate in contracting: either in the planning for procurement, or in assessing whether goods and services delivered were of a high enough quality.

We call for:

  • HMG to develop a pilot for citizen participation in the planning phase of contracting;
  • HMG to develop interfaces to visualise contract performance, and invite citizen feedback on contract delivery;
  • HMG to develop a distinct element of the same pilot that is focused on:
    • improving the participation of those living in poverty and marginalised groups
    • identifying the positive and negative outcomes outcomes of government expenditure on their quality of life and livelihood
    • identifying learning from this evidence in multi stakeholder groups and  applying this to the design of future government expenditure in order to create an option for people living in poverty and marginalised groups

Open Data

binary9Data has become an increasingly important resource for understanding society and government in the twenty-first century, and developing new and more responsive services for citizens. The following commitments would help government, civil society, and business better realise the value of public data for citizens.

12. Implement the UK’s National Information Infrastructure

Publish a plan and mechanism to compel the publication or creation, of core data assets that make up the UK’s NII.

Current situation:

Land valuations, geospatial data and address data are just some data assets that have the capacity for immense economic and social impact. The UK government needs to take concrete action to create a strong data infrastructure for people inside and outside government to build on. The creation and maintenance of core data assets, along with organisations to operate and oversee those assets, will ensure that data use and value is maximised.

We call for:

  • HMG to work with data users to define the kinds of data inside and outside government that are to be considered core data assets for the purpose of the National Information Infrastructure.
  • HMG to re-open dialogue on what information qualifies as socially, economically and environmentally valuable.
  • HMG to invest in making core data assets available as open data, including:
    • a national address database
    • a registry of land valuations of property information
    • geospatial data
  • HMG to identify/establish mechanisms for formal feedback/engagement with open data users as part of refining the NII and delivering future open data policies
  • HMG to implement a framework for management of the NII that ensures data is maintained as much as possible using open standards, non-proprietary identifiers and open mechanisms for feedback and amendments.

13. Involve data users in shaping the future of open data

Establish a formal mechanism for open data users to communicate with Government and help to deliver the UK’s open data NAP commitments.

Current situation:

The UK government needs to commit to the creation of a formal mechanism to ensure user perspectives are a part of government open data policy making. The current lack of representation for data users will limit the government’s understanding of user needs for open data.

We call for:

  • HMG to establish an advisory group to contribute to government open data policy making. This group should have a clear set of objectives and appropriate powers to allow them to achieve their objectives. Their remit should include the power to review data request and release processes and deliver actionable recommendations.
  • The advisory group to be used to coordinate with those who are using open data to build services and find insights to highlight additional areas of government policy that can be made more transparent, and/or drive efficiencies, using open data.

14. Make full use of data assets

Require the use of open data in decision making processes and actively encourage data use by citizens and service users for participation and accountability

Current situation:

Open data is an invaluable mechanism to enable greater transparency of government – how it works, how much things cost and where processes could be more efficient. However, at the moment many departments do not make full use of their own data to improve their decision making processes, nor do they always encourage civil society and citizens to use the data to participate and hold the government accountable.

We call for:

  • HMG to establish a requirement that departments and agencies develop a plan for how they will promote use of data internally and by their stakeholders.

Open Evidence

descending11Good evidence is critical to effective decision making in any organisation. It is within the rights of elected decision makers not to accept particular evidence, but this should be done transparently and honestly, with an explanation of why. Citizens should be able to scrutinise how those taking decisions on their behalf are using (and misusing) evidence in order to be able to hold them to account. The following commitments would help ensure that the evidence base for policy is well understood.

15. Ensure the open and timely publication of government research

Ensure the open and timely publication of government research, through a standardised public register of all commissioned studies.

Current situation:

The public cannot easily see whether research conducted or commissioned by government has been published.

We call for:

  • HMG to work with researchers and civil society organisations to develop a standardised register for all departments and arms-length bodies to record all research studies they conduct or commission.
  • All departments and arms-length bodies to transfer all data on current and future research studies to the new register by end of 2016.

16. Provide a single point of contact for public requests for evidence

Each government department and agency should provide a single point of contact for public requests for evidence related to departmental policy.

Current situation:

Government departments and agencies do not provide a clearly identified contact that the public can request evidence from. This will increase civic participation, is beneficial to public understanding, will increase public access to information and increase accountability.

We call for:

  • HMG to introduce a named single points of contact in every department. (SPOC)
  • HMG to establish facilities to record dated requests and dated responses (in line with current government guidelines on public response times).
  • Every Government department and agency to clearly display SPOC information on GOV.UK

17. Make the use of evidence in policy formulation and evaluation transparent

Introduce an evidence transparency standard that shows how government has considered evidence in policy formulation and evaluation.

Current situation:

Citizens are unable to access the evidence behind government policy formulation and evaluation. If government is to be held properly to account for its decisions and actions, citizens need to be able to understand the way government has used evidence in making its decision and be able to access it readily.

We call for:

  • HMG to commit to an evidence transparency standard, developed in consultation with researchers and civil society organisations.
  • All government departments and agencies to publish the data and evidence that underpin any new policies they announce in accordance with this standard, and to commit to regular and long term evaluation of policies.

Open Information

information58Access to information is fundamental to open government. It embeds the right of citizens to understand the decisions that are taken on their behalf, and helps to support good governance, effective and efficient public administration, compliance with laws and regulations, and efforts to combat corruption. The following commitments would help ensure that citizens can ask questions and access information on any issue that matters to them.

18. Promote comprehensive freedom of information rules

The Freedom of Information Act should be protected and its scope widened to achieve comprehensive coverage of public sector bodies and the companies they part own.

Current situation:

Freedom of Information is the foundation stone of open government which allows citizens to ask questions, and receive information, on the issues that matter to them. However, Freedom of Information does not currently apply to all public bodies, and often important information is inaccessible from bodies providing public services on the behalf of government.

We call for:

  • HMG to amend the Freedom of Information Act to ensure comprehensive FOI coverage of public authorities and bodies providing public services on their behalf
  • HMG to create an Open Register of Public Bodies, with indication of whether they are currently subject to Freedom of Information or Environmental Information Regulations
  • HMG to publish a roadmap for bringing those public bodies not currently subject to FOI/EIR under the legislation. Any exceptions should be limited to those where, following public consultation, powerful reasons for excluding the body have been established.
  • When publishing impact assessments for bills involving the creation of new public bodies or the transfer of responsibilities from existing public bodies, a statement of the FOI/EIR status of the bodies concerned to be mandatory.

19. Ensure the integrity, usability and sustainability of government information

Ensure a holistic approach to the management of government information of all kinds so as to facilitate openness now and in the future.

Current situation:

Accountability requires access to information with integrity. Technical standards for information integrity exist, but must be applied consistently across government if openness initiatives are to be meaningful. In an increasingly digital environment, information integrity entails capturing and managing information from creation onwards, through interoperable systems and mechanisms. More needs to be done to develop an information management environment within government that enables information integrity and openness.

We call for:

  • HMG to enact a new Public Records Act that empowers The National Archives to lead on information management.
  • HMG to develop a strategy for introducing into open data initiatives the technical knowledge developed in the records management, data science, and digital preservation communities, to strengthen information integrity in support of meaningful openness.
  • HMG to ensure the infrastructure is in place to enable government information to be, and remain, accessible and usable.

Open Local Government

placeholder8As greater powers and responsibilities are devolved from national government, local governments and public services have an increasingly significant role within the lives of citizens. Lots of innovative open government practice already exists within local government, but there is opportunity to develop and spread it further and wider. The following commitments would help ensure that all levels of government are responsive and accountable to citizens.

20. Establish an Open Local Government Partnership

Work with local authorities and civil society to scope out and develop an local open government partnership.

Current situation:

Pockets of good open government practice already exist in local government across the country, but they are scattered and often restricted to specific projects or small teams and departments. There is currently no mechanism or incentive for spreading existing or supporting new innovations in openness in local government. By adopting an Open Government Partnership model, open government practice can be developed and spread across local government.

We call for:

  • HMG to help identify relevant stakeholders from local authorities and civil society and hold an Open Local Government Partnership Summit to share practice of open government and identify pioneers to establish the partnership.
  • HMG to support the identification of a diverse group of founding local authorities and the establishment of a civil society steering group, which collectively agree the process, governance and declaration of the partnership
  • HMG to support the founding members to develop and publish open government action plans, and showcase key actions within the OGP
  • HMG to support the Open Local Government Partnership to become financially sustainable and secure increasing levels of engagement from local authorities and civil society

21. Include local governance and engagement frameworks as part of devolution deals

Include local governance and engagement frameworks as part of devolution deals.

Current situation:

The speed of devolution, among other factors, means not all local/ combined authorities are sufficiently considering how to engage the public and overcome these challenges.

We call for:

  • HMG to hold a roundtable for Councils, Combined Authorities and civil society stakeholders on the content of the Framework
  • HMG to work with stakeholders to agree and publicise a finalised Framework
  • HMG to actively encourage and support the completion of the Frameworks by Councils and Combined Authorities seeking devolution deals

Open Parliaments & Courts

public6Open government is not just about the executive; it must apply to all public institutions that impact on the lives of citizens. Parliament and courts are two such institutions that require scrutiny by citizens and civil society to ensure they operate fairly and effectively. The following commitments would help citizens to better understand and influence the workings of Parliament and the courts.

22. Make all parliamentary data freely available

All parliamentary data should be freely available for the public to download and/or re-use.

Current situation:

Parliamentary data is inconsistently available or not available at all in an open format, which reduces opportunities for civic participation and public accountability.

We call for:

  • UK Parliament to publish Hansard data in near-real time in machine readable format.
  • The Parliamentary record to be published in near-real time in machine readable format for Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly
  • All UK Parliaments and Assemblies to publish all plenary and committee video in an open and re-usable format.
  • All UK Parliaments and Assemblies to publish a list of members, register of members’ interests, draft legislation, amendments to draft legislation, voting records, committee reports, standing orders (and related) in an open data format in near-real time.

23. Increase citizen involvement in the legislative process

Open up parliaments/assemblies so more people can contribute.

Current situation:

Those who take part in the parliamentary process shape the future, but all too often this is a narrow subset of the population. Digital tools allows our legislatures to step out beyond the chamber or committee room in new ways, whether it’s taking the parliament out to the people or allowing people to come to parliament through new digital channels. This is about strengthening democratic participation and rebuilding trust as much as it is about enhancing public accountability.

We call for:

  • UK Parliament to introduce a method for public questions and engagement during (or prior to) Westminster Hall debates in the House of Commons.

24. Enshrine Parliamentary Openness

Formally adopt The Declaration of Parliamentary Openness, an international declaration which sets out 44 principles for advancing parliamentary openness. This will promote a culture of openness, make parliamentary information transparent, ease access to parliamentary information and enable electronic communication of parliamentary information.

Current situation:

A commitment to openness and transparency is a way to hold the parliament/assembly to account for its actions (or non-actions) and acts as a lever to educate and inform parliaments as to the value of openness.

We call for:

  • Members of all UK Parliaments and Assemblies to formally adopt the Declaration of Parliamentary Openness.

25. Open up the court system to public scrutiny

Open data of the daily case flow schedule and outcomes of their courts and tribunals

Current situation:

Courts are the basis of justice, and justice must be seen to be done. The current court process is opaque.

We call for:

  • Data standards to be developed with the legal data community that define what data should be published, and how.
  • Justice data systems to be updated with modern contracting and development processes.
  • Courts to publish open data on case schedules in courts.
  • Courts to publish open data on the outcomes of courts and tribunals around the UK, including publication under a permissive license of all written judgments.


stop15Ensuring the privacy of individuals is critical to ensuring that citizens and civil society feel able to hold government to account. The use of personal information by government must be governed by clear rules that achieve broad public understanding and support, and with mechanisms through which individuals can find out how their information is being used. The following commitments would help give citizens more oversight of how their privacy is or is not being respected.

26. Publish departmental data release registers

Provide a complete Data Release Register, listing all data flows of individual level in/between departments and other public bodies and why, readable by the public.  

Current situation:

There is no transparency on how and where Departments share individual level data as part of sharing of bulk personal datasets.

We call for:

  • All departments and bodies to routinely publish a regular Data Release Register.
  • Departments to certify that their Data Release Register is complete for the time period it covers.

27. Introduce citizen centric data usage reports

Provide all citizens with a report on how their individual level data has been used by government services.

Current situation:

No citizen currently knows how Government has used their data.

We call for:

  • All willing departments to make available digital data usage reports, delivered by GDS & ONS to ensure no operational uses.
  • HMG to develop a roadmap for all uses of, and flows in/out of, population scale databases to be included in the report to citizens.

28. Increase the transparency of surveillance

Increase the transparency of surveillance activities to improve accountability and secure public trust.

Current situation:

At all levels of government, surveillance tools are used without giving the public adequate information about the surveillance in place, the benefits it brings, and the rights of citizens with respect to it.

We call for:

  • HMG to revise and update guidance for the public sector on the use of CCTV, body cameras, facial recognition and other algorithmic analysis tools – with an emphasis on informing the public of when such tools are in use;
  • HMG to commission an independent review and parallel deliberative democratic exercise to explore the right boundaries between secrecy and disclosure of details of state surveillance activities;
  • HMG to develop a clear approach to transparency reports, allowing companies to disclose, within reasonable timeframes, aggregate details of all requests from state agencies for information, and requiring authorities requesting information to publish their own aggregate reports of the requests they have made

Detailed commitments

OGP National Action Plans should set out specific, measurable and time bound commitments, published in a common format. Detailed versions of the above proposals, in the OGP commitment template, can be read and downloaded here.